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December 5, 2022

New law reduces window to have abortion in Florida from 24 to 15 weeks

A new bill signed into law Thursday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reduces the window that women can have abortions in Florida from 24 to 15 weeks.

HB 5, the Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act, filed by state Sen. Killi Stargel, prohibits all abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. A heartbeat is generally detected around six weeks of gestation.

“House Bill 5 protects babies in the womb who have beating hearts, who can move, who can taste, who can see, and who can feel pain,” DeSantis said when he signed the bill, adding that the new law “represents the most significant protections for life in the state’s modern history.”

“In the half century since the Roe v. Wade decision, science has shown us that an unborn baby rapidly develops the functions and form of a child long before viability,” Stargel said. “Having once been a scared teenage mother myself, I understand the challenge and anguish of a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, but we have a duty to protect life.”

HB 5 amends existing law by adding several requirements, including that the state Department of Health contract with local Healthy Start coalitions to establish fetal and infant mortality review committees statewide. The law requires the committees to review and analyze “rates, trends, causes, and other data related to fetal and infant mortality and morbidity in its geographic area; develop findings and recommendations for interventions and policy changes to reduce fetal and infant mortality and morbidity rates; [and] engage with local communities and stakeholders to implement recommended policies and procedures to reduce fetal and infant mortality and morbidity.”

The new law appropriates $1.6 million in recurring funds from the General Revenue Fund for fiscal 2022-2023 to the state Department of Health to establish and fund the committees. All hospitals that provide birthing services are required to participate in at least two quality initiatives developed in collaboration with the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative within the University of South Florida College of Public Health, according to the law.

House Speaker Chris Sprowles said provisions in the bill will also “continue to support babies and new moms to ensure they have the best opportunities to be healthy and safe for years to come.”

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller said in a statement that being a single mother hasn’t been easy and described her experience of becoming pregnant while a 19-year-old college student. She says she “went to a physician and was handed a referral for abortion without any counseling.” She kept her baby and said it “takes courage for any woman who finds herself at a crossroads and has to make the toughest decision of their life.” She encourages women to “not believe the narrative that a baby will ruin your life and that abortion is the right choice, you WILL be fine and all WILL be well.”

DeSantis signed the bill after signing a separate bill Wednesday dedicating more than $44 million in support for foster parents, an issue that hits home for Senate President Wilton Simpson who is adopted.

“Every abortion kills a special and unique human being who deserves protection under the laws of this state and the chance to grow up in a loving family,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said. “As an adopted child in a family that took in foster children, it has always been important to me that our state do everything we can to promote adoption as an alternative to abortion. Floridians can be proud that we live in a state that not only protects innocent, unborn life, but also supports children and parents. I commend Governor DeSantis for making strong pro-life, pro-child, and pro-family legislation the centerpiece of his administration.”

DeSantis has signed other pro-life bills into law. He signed SB 404 in June 2020, which requires written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian in order to have an abortion. Last year, he signed SB 2518 to help reduce maternal mortality rates and improve health outcomes for low-income new mothers and children by extending postpartum eligibility for Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months post-delivery.

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